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Collective Switch

Together we can save!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When we talk about The Energy Community we often talk about how ‘collectively’ we can learn from each other on how to save energy: exchanging tips, advice and stories.  But, there are other ways that together we can save too…may I introduce the idea of ‘collective switching’.

The idea of saving money by switching provider is hopefully not new to you.  Often energy suppliers will have ‘special deals’ to tempt you to switch to them from your current provider, and often switching provider is the easiest way of saving substantial sums of money, potentially up to £383 by uSwitch’s reckoning. But, how is collective switching different?  Firstly, you are not alone.  Collective switching involves a group of households getting together to negotiate a special deal with suppliers.  Secondly, this special deal shouldn’t be available to normal households that have not taken part in the collective switch.

Collective switching has become increasingly popular since May 2012 when Which? and 38 Degrees ran the first scheme, and collective switching has recently endorsed by government as good for consumers.  Schemes tend to be focussed on a specific geography or particular groups of households that have historically shown little engagement in switching, these tend to be vulnerable households where a large proportion could be in fuel poverty. The potential savings can be quite considerable.  I have summarised some of the most recent schemes below.

Scheme Number of people registered % of people switching Average reported savings
Big Switch – April 2012 287 365 13% £233
Bristol Switch and Save – April 2013 5378 23% £104
Cornwall Together 2 – April 2013 8366 12% £112
London Big Community Energy Switch – April 2013 26 000 8% £122

So how does a collective switching scheme work? I have summarised the process below or there is a useful YouTube video:

There are three stages to the process. Once a collective switching scheme has been created this is usually then advertised.  For a household, the first stage is the sign-up and this where you express your interest in the scheme.  Then once the sign-up has been completed the organiser of the switching scheme invites suppliers to take part in a reverse auction.  In a reverse auction the suppliers bid to supply the energy to those households that have registered interest.  The lowest bidder wins the opportunity to supply the energy.  Finally, and most importantly the households that have signed up can then opt to switch to the supplier who won the auction.  It is important to note that you are under no obligation to switch. If you do accept the offer to switch supplier the process should be managed either by your new supplier or the group that organised the collective switching scheme.

If you are interested in taking part in a collective switching scheme, unfortunately there isn’t one convenient site that lists all the schemes.  The best place to start looking is by doing a simple internet search for “collective energy switching” + your county or council.  Most local councils and government authorities run a collective energy switching.

Martin Lewis and the team over at Money Saving Expert are running a collective switching at the moment (registration ends 5pm Friday 7th November).

Have you used a collective switching scheme before? If so, what was your experience and did you save money?  Share you experiences in the Forum.  If you signed up to the Money Saving Expert collective switch, how much did you save?  Or, if you are interested in collective switching, use the Forum to try and find people in your area who might be interested in clubbing together to switch and save!

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  • Andrew Timmis
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    Andrew Timmis
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